It's been a busy couple of years for Sheryl Crow. Her breakup with cycling legend Lance Armstrong caused a tabloid feeding frenzy, as did a simultaneous bout with breast cancer. After undergoing successful treatment, she adopted a child, then took to the road with Laurie David to spread the word about global warming while riding around in a biofuel-powered bus. And just last month, the longtime breast-cancer cure campaigner went before a congressional subcommittee to advocate for a bill that would direct more federal funds toward researching environmental influences on the disease.
That's a lot of living for anybody, yet somehow Crow also managed to put together Detours, a thoughtful, often topical CD that dips a toe into rock, folk, soul and pop. Depending on who you believe, the political portion of the track listing (particularly the soul-inspired breakup song "Now That You're Gone") may or may not have been inspired by an argument she had about global warming with ex-Bush Svengali Karl Rove at a White House correspondents dinner. In any case, in songs about carrying on and finding oneself after a relationship has come undone, Crow gets pretty pugilistic.
At least for her. Despite having tackled serious subjects like abortion in the past, no one has ever accused the 46-year-old of being a bomb thrower. And yet much of Detours has more heft than anyone would have expected from the former music teacher and Michael Jackson and Don Henley backup singer. Yes, Bill Bottrell, the guiding force behind Crow's 1993 debut, Tuesday Night Movie Club, has given this album plenty of production gloss. But most everything on it is a far cry from the breezy indictment of SoCal languor on her first MTV-approved hit, "All I Wanna Do." Tuneful jeremiads like "Gasoline" and "Shine Over Babylon" aren't marvelous examples of politically minded pop craft, but they're hooky and clearly heartfelt, and those are artistic achievements worth acknowledging.
No doubt Crow will spend part of the evening at the Alliant Center putting on her MOR hits with a band that includes another cancer survivor in percussionist Wally Ingram, a Madison expat who also played drums with her years earlier in her career. But expect some politically charged moments from her as well. That's where Crow's head and heart are at these days, and Detours indicates that she feels no compunction about speaking her mind on everything from global warming to the war in Iraq (which in fact she opposed from the outset).